How to Do Library Research

This set of pages has information on how to do library research. In all cases, once you have located sources, be sure to evaluate them, using the evaluation guides.

Glossary of Library Terms

  • ABSTRACT: A non-evaluative summary of a book, journal article, or other information source. The INDEX called an "abstract" tends to cover a relatively narrow subject area with the main entries often organized by broad subject headings.
  • ACCESS TOOL: A tool which identifies or directs you to a source of information. The Online Catalog is a major access tool in the Colorado State University Libraries. It gives you call number and location information for books and journals. A directional reference work such as a guide to the literature or INDEX which provides CITATIONS to books or journals is also an access tool.
  • ACCESSION NUMBER: Identifying number for a document used in many DATABASES. Can be used to find the same citation in the DATABASE again, but is otherwise not useful to the user. The one major exception to this is that in ERIC (an INDEX of educational sources), the accession number for Resources in Education (RIE) documents (these begin with "ED") is used to locate non-book documents in the ERIC MICROFICHE cabinets. For example, the report entitled Learning Science is found under its accession number, ED406128.


  • ANNOTATION: A note that describes or evaluates an item, especially a note added to a catalog ENTRY or to an ENTRY in a BIBLIOGRAPHY.


  • AUTHOR SEARCH: The SAGE online catalog allows you to search by author. An author search will find books by author, editor, or CORPORATE AUTHOR. Associations, agencies, business firms and other institutions are corporate authors.


  • BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD: A description of a book, journal or other library materials. It may include author, title, publication information, the COLLATION, and SUBJECT HEADINGS.


  • BIBLIOGRAPHY: A list of sources. It may be published as a book, a journal article or pamphlet. A bibliography may include CITATIONS of books, journal articles, web sites, etc.


  • TO BIND - (A periodical): To join several issues of a magazine or journal in one volume with a hard cover.


  • BINDERY: A place where periodicals and books are sent to be bound in hard covers.


  • BOOK DUMMY: A wooden block in the shape of a book, with a call number on it. On the shelf where the catalog says a book is located, the block has information directing the user to where the book is actually kept. Seen most frequently REFERENCE to indicate that a particular items is kept in READY REFERENCE.


  • BOOLEAN LOGIC: Connecting terms that enable the user to do a more specific search in a DATABASE. Boolean terms are: and, or, not. "And" narrows, "or" broadens, and "not" eliminates items from a search. In SAGE, when doing a WORDS SEARCH, "and" is implicit--that is to say, the computer will connect the terms together with "and" unless the user types in "or" or "not." However, when searching most CD-ROMs there is no implicit "and" and the user must type "and" when desiring a search outcome that includes all words. For example, "women and health and aging."


  • BOUND PERIODICAL: Several magazines or journals are arranged together in one hard cover so that they appear to be a book-like volume.


  • CALL NUMBER: A combination of letters and numbers assigned to each book, microform, recording or other material. Most research libraries use a system developed by the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (LC) which indicates the subject of the book and allows books on the same subject to be shelved together. In the online catalog most call numbers appear like this: NK5389 .C1.


  • CARD CATALOG: A card file which may be arranged in author, title, and subject sections. Materials owned by the library are listed alphabetically. Colorado State University has one card catalog left, a SHELFLIST for GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS.


  • CATALOG: A list of library materials which describe, and indexes the resources of a collection or library. A CATALOG may be ONLINE, a CARD CATALOG, or printed in books.


  • CD-ROM: Compact Disk-Read Only Memory. A storage device that holds thousands of pages' worth of information. Accessed by a microcomputer. Some of the library's INDEXes are available on CD-ROM.


  • CHECK OUT: To borrow library materials for a specified period of time.


  • CIRCULATING: Material that can be checked out of the library. Some materials, such as those in Reference, and Archives/ Special Collections, are non-circulating.


  • CITATION: The basic information needed to find specific materials. For a book this information includes author, title, place of publication, publisher, and date published. When the book is "cited" by another author, page number(s) may be included. For an article, the citation usually includes author, title, name of journal, date, volume, and pages.


  • CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM: The method used to group materials by subject. Colorado State University uses the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS classification system to assign call numbers to materials.


  • COLLATION: The description of a book, including number of leaves and pages and if it has a bibliography, illustrations, etc.


  • COPYRIGHT: The right to publish and sell a work. It is granted to an author, composer, artist, and so forth by a government. The date of copyright usually appears on the VERSO or reverse side of the book's title page. A small "c" preceding a date indicates the book was copyrighted in that year.


  • CORPORATE AUTHOR: A body, such as a government or governmental department, institution, society, corporation, etc. which authorizes the publication of materials and under the name of which, as author, the materials will be entered in a catalog. In the online catalog, an Author search should be done to find corporate authors.


  • CROSS REFERENCES: Instructions which lead to related information listed under other subject headings or terms. A cross reference may be a "See" reference to the "correct" heading or a "SEE ALSO" reference to a related heading.


  • CURRENT PERIODICALS: Issues of a magazine or journal which have been published in the last year or two which are shelved in the JOURNAL ROOM (2nd floor West).


  • DATABASE: A body of information in machine readable form which is accessible by computer. Records for materials owned by the Colorado State University Libraries comprise the online catalog (SAGE).


  • DICTIONARY: A book which gives the pronunciation and meaning of words. An unabridged dictionary is comprehensive in scope and gives more complete information. An abridged dictionary is narrow and provides less complete information.


  • DUE DATE OR DATE DUE: The date by which borrowed materials must be returned to the library.


  • EDITION: All impressions of a work printed from one setting of type. A revised or new edition usually indicates that the text has been changed or new materials added.


  • ENCYCLOPEDIA: A work containing information on all subjects is a general encyclopedia. A subject encyclopedia concentrates on all aspects of one subject or field.


  • ENTRY: A citation or record in an index or catalog.


  • FIELD: A category of information used in computerized INDEXes. Major categories are author, title, source and subject. Sophisticated DATABASES allow the searcher to search for words in specific fields.


  • FULL TEXT: The complete article or other type of publication. Currently, most full text article DATABASES don't include photographs or other images that would be found in a printed PERIODICAL.


  • GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS: Materials published by federal, state, and local government agencies. Usually shelved in a separate area in a library. In Morgan Library they are located on the 3rd and 4th Floor South; Reference government documents are shelved in a separate area in the 1st Floor West Reference area.


  • HEADING: A word, or phrase placed at the top of a catalog entry or index to indicate some special aspect of the material such as author, subject, title, etc.


  • HOLDINGS: Materials owned by a library. Frequently it is used to denote the record of volumes and issues of serials owned by a library.


  • INDEX: A systematically arranged list giving enough information for each item to be found. Periodical indexes list articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers. An index of a book lists names and subjects with page references to where they can be found in the book.


  • INTERLIBRARY LOAN: A service that allows users in one library to borrow materials from another library. At Colorado State University this service is free, but it is only available to those currently affiliated with the University: students, faculty (including emeritus), and staff. Always check SAGE before making a request (feel free to ask for assistance at the REFERENCE DESK), because InterLibrary Loan is for items not owned by the requesting library. Currently, (at Colorado State University) journal articles from damaged bound journals (indicated on SAGE by "FLOOD: USE ILL") may be requested via Fast InterLibrary Loan; damaged books (and journal articles from journals not owned by the University) are requested through regular InterLibrary Loan. All requests are made electronically. Request InterLibrary Loan materials.


  • INTERNET: An international network of networks accessed via computers with compatible communication standards. More detailed definition of Internet.


  • JOURNAL: A magazine which is usually considered more scholarly than a popular magazine. Journal articles usually contain footnotes and/or bibliographical references. See also SERIAL.


  • JOURNAL ROOM: The location in Morgan Library where CURRENT PERIODICALS can be found. It is located on the 2nd floor on the West side.


  • LC: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, the largest library complex in the world.


  • LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION: The system made up of letters and numbers which divides knowledge into subject areas. The system was devised by the Library of Congress and is used at Colorado State University to arrange books on the shelves. Finding a book on the shelf (Library of Congress call number)


  • LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADING: A word or phrase which indicates a book's subject. The online catalog (SAGE) uses terms from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) books. How to use LCSH.


  • LOAN DESK: The service desk where you may check out circulating materials.


  • MAGAZINE: A periodical publication usually considered to be of more general or popular interest than a journal. See also SERIAL.


  • MENU: A display (in libraries, computerized) where the user is offered a number of options from which to choose. For example, in SAGE the user selects the type of search desired: Author, Title, etc.


  • MICROFICHE: A sheet of film on which a printed book, journal, newspaper, or other publication has been reduced in size.


  • MICROFILM: A roll of film on which a printed book, journal, newspaper, or other publication has been reduced in size.


  • MICROFORM: A printed book, journal, newspaper, or other publication which has been reduced in size so that it must be read with special equipment. Microforms include MICROFICHE, microcards, and MICROFILM.


  • MONOGRAPH: A scholarly book or pamphlet on a specific subject. Usually, it is used synonymously for book.


  • ONLINE: Direct communication between a user and a computer which allows a request to be processed and the results displayed immediately on the terminal screen.


  • ONLINE CATALOG: Colorado State University's online catalog (SAGE) is a computerized system for finding out what materials are owned by the Libraries, the call number, branch library, and whether or not the item is checked out. (Searching SAGE on the Web)


  • OTHER ENTRIES: Catalog access points other than the main entry. There may be entries for the subject, authors, title, series, editor, illustrator, etc.


  • OVERSIZE: An oversized volume shelved in a special location for larger books.


  • PERIODICAL: A magazine, journal, newspaper, or annual publication which is published at regular intervals.


  • PRIMARY SOURCE: Original manuscripts, contemporary records, and documents.


  • READY REFERENCE: Location in REFERENCE at or near the REFERENCE DESK where the most frequently used library materials are kept.


  • RECALL: The procedure by which the library can request that materials currently checked out be returned to the library so that another person who has requested the materials can use them.


  • REF: This abbreviation is used after a call number to indicate that a work shelved in the reference area and is non-circulating.


  • REFERENCE: Location in the library where frequently used materials are kept. None of these materials can be CHECKED OUT because they need to be available for all users. Many encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, directories, and bibliographies are located in Reference.


  • REFERENCE DESK: Service desk where users can get assistance in using the library. Where to go to find out recommended resources and research strategies.


  • RENEW: To extend the amount of time materials can be borrowed. Renewals can be done electronically on SAGE or by telephoning the LOAN DESK. However, this applies only to materials owned by Colorado State University. Requests to renew InterLibrary Loan items must be made through InterLibrary Loan.


  • RESERVE: Materials a faculty member has decided to make available to a class and some heavily used reference materials which are placed "on reserve" to be available for a limited period of time from two hours to three days. Reserve is located with the Loan Desk by the main entrance to Morgan Library.


  • SAGE: The name for the online catalog that identifies materials owned by Colorado State University. It includes books, PERIODICALS, GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS, MICROFORMS, etc. SAGE


  • SECONDARY SOURCE: Materials which are not original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents.


  • "SEE" or "SEE ALSO" REFERENCE: Directions in an index or catalog to look under another term or a related term, respectively.


  • SERIAL: A publication issued in successive parts usually at regular intervals. The term includes periodicals such as MAGAZINEs, newspapers, JOURNALs, and annuals.


  • SHELFLIST: A record of the materials in a library arranged in CALL NUMBER order, the order in which they would stand on the shelves. The Online Catalog permits call number "browsing" as an electronic shelflist. Many government documents at Morgan Library (and in Storage) are still identified by a card catalog-type shelflist.


  • STACKS: The book shelves where most books are located. Indicated by "MORGAN" for stacks in Morgan Library, "ATMOS" for those in Atmospheric Science Branch Library, and "ENGINEER" for Engineering Science Branch Library items in SAGE, Colorado State University's online catalog.


  • STORAGE: Where materials that don't fit in the library building are kept on campus. Indicated by "STORAGE" on SAGE, these materials may be requested. Storage items are delivered to Morgan Library twice a day Monday through Friday.


  • SUBJECT HEADING: A term or phrase assigned to materials which describes the subject or a work. Colorado State University uses subject headings listed in the Library of Congress Subject Headings .


  • SUBJECT HEADING SUBDIVISION: A term or phrase used to make subject headings more specific. There are four types: topical (Invalids Recreation), form (Cats Periodicals), time period (Mathematics 1961-) and local (Geology Delaware).


  • UNION CATALOG: A catalog which lists materials held by a group of libraries.


  • VOLUME: Physically, a volume is a gathering of pages bound together in the form of a book. Numerically, a volume is a full set of issues (numbers) which comprises a SERIAL volume bound together. CITATIONS to periodicals use the term in the numerical sense to indicate issues published during a given year.


  • WORD SEARCH: SAGE allows you to search by WORDS. Words may be from the title or they may be subjects, concepts, ideas and dates. The word search might also be called a "keyword" search.

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